Val and Robyn Middleton are part of Port Hedland’s RSL Sub-Branch and RSL Community Shop and every April, with the Pilbara Regiment, the Town of Port Hedland and a handful of private organisations; they organise the town’s ANZAC Day Dawn Service.
They’ve done so for most of the past decade.
Born in Bundaberg, Queensland, Val served in the infantry for 30 years in various training and operations roles and joined the local RSL when he moved to Port Hedland with his wife in 2004.
Val was soon Sub-Branch President and his wife Robyn the Secretary, and between them and the club they have transformed the old South Hedland Bowls Club into a new ANZAC House, RSL clubrooms and shop premises with BHP’s help.
They have also reorganised the RSL Community Shop, initially volunteer run, into a not-for-profit business providing affordable clothing and household products to the local community.
Over the years profits from the shop have supported older Hedland residents, community organisations and youth groups through goods or cash donations. The RSL Community Shop also donates clothes and goods to the seafarers that come into port, the local women’s refuge and to some remote communities.
“Behind the shopfront, 100 per cent more is done to help the community,” Robyn said.
“We love the end product of what we do – being able to contribute funds to local organisations or supporting the disadvantaged. Our lives are the work we’ve committed to.”
ANZAC Day is important to the Middletons.
“My father was a prisoner of war with the Japanese in World War II,” Val said. “When the Commissioned Officers were removed from the POWs held in Shanghai Prison, he, being the senior Warrant Officer, was made the Senior Officer to liaise directly with their captives. He also took part in the infamous Burma Railway.”
“Come ANZAC Day, I think of him and I remember ANZAC Day when I was young, back at the Bundaberg RSL listening to ex-servicemen gathered at the club talking about what they’d given. And they’d given a lot,” he said.
Val, who used to teach military history, is also one of the keepers of Hedland’s own ANZAC story.
“Hedland was bombed by the Japanese in 1942, during WWII, and an Australian soldier was killed,” he said.
“That soldier, Private John Adams, was the only soldier to have been born and to have enlisted, to have fought, died and to have been buried all in Western Australia.”
On Sunday, 25 April the RSL Port Hedland Sub-Branch’s 2021 Anzac Day Dawn Service will be held from 5:00am at the Port Hedland War Memorial followed by a Gunfire Breakfast at the Pilbara Regiment on Wilson Street.
The Hedditch Street RSL clubrooms in South Hedland will then be open from 9am until 2pm for the sharing of stories like these.
To join the Port Hedland RSL Sub-Branch email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0428 925 405.
Membership is open to servicemen, affiliates and social members.
The RSL Community Shop also welcomes volunteers to help out at the store and become part of their community.
You can find them at Lot 553 Hedditch Street, South Hedland.